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Before hegemony: Britain, free trade,and nineteenth-century world order revisited
journal contributionposted on 2023-06-08, 15:27 authored by Hannes Lacher, Julian GermannJulian Germann
This article argues that neo-Gramscian theorizations of hegemony have failed to illuminate the role of nineteenth-century Britain in the rise of a liberal world economy in three respects. First, they have provided mutually exclusive accounts of the social forces underpinning domestic and international hegemony. Second, they have failed to show Britain’s agency in the making of a liberal world order. Third, they have posited a uniformity of social forces and liberal state forms that elides the differences between British and continental societies, thereby obscuring the real reasons for the general shift to liberal internationalism. We argue that it was the structural differences in the economic, social, and political organization of Britain and continental Europe that made free trade without a hegemon possible. Neo-Gramscian theorists of hegemony—just like their mainstream peers—have unduly generalized from the unique structures of American hegemony after 1945. Instead of serving as a master concept to organize the history of international relations, hegemony itself needs to be historicized: as a singular and temporally limited possibility of societal and international rule, preceded and succeeded by other forms.
JournalInternational Studies Review
Department affiliated with
- International Relations Publications
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